Barcelona looks to carry over its strong start in the Spanish La Liga into its opening UEFA Champions League fixture against Spartak Moskva of Russia.
Barca sits atop the Spanish Premier Division table with a 4-0-0 mark. It hopes to find itself in the same position in the Champions League after Group G play begins on Wednesday.
Spartak hasn’t been nearly as dominant eight matches into their Russian Premier League campaign. Their 4-1-3 record has them in seventh position, but they’ll get a clean slate when they begin play in the European tournament at Nou Camp tomorrow.
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova and his Spartak counterpart, Unai Emery, will both be leading their respective clubs in Champions League play for the first time. But Emery is very familiar with Barca from his previous stints leading Primera Division side Valencia—where he coached from 2008 until joining Spartak in May—and Almeria of the Segunda Division.
Unfortunately, that familiarity has earned Emery a 12-match losing streak versus Barcelona, a streak he’ll be eager to put behind him tomorrow. His luck may not improve as the Russians look to end a 16-match home winning streak for the Spanish side dating back to 2009.
Where: Estadio Camp Nou, Spain
When: Wednesday, September 19, 2:45 p.m. EST
Live Stream: Barcelona Stream.com
Barcelona Team Breakdown
When Barcelona begins its 2012-2013 Champions League campaign on Wednesday, it’ll be looking to continue a recent trend that has resulted in championships in each of the last two odd-numbered years.
All eyes will be on the world’s top footballer, Lionel Messi, when Barca takes the field. They’ll need Messi to be in top form as they play without injured stars Andres Iniesta—the 2012 UEFA Best Player Award winner—and defender Carles Puyol.
Forward Alexis Sanchez and defender Jordi Alba are also listed as questionable for tomorrow’s fixture.
Messi has scored six goals in his last four matches. His brilliance, along with Barca’s considerable home-field advantage, will help offset the loss of a few key players.
Barcelona may be favorites entering tomorrow’s match, but they won’t take the Russian side for granted.
Vilanova was an assistant on the last Barcelona team to lose at home—a 2-1 defeat in a game they were also favored to win—so he won’t allow his squad to overlook the Russian side.
Spartak Moskva Team Breakdown
Unlike Barcelona, which has become a regular participant in the Champions League, Spartak will be making their first tournament appearance in six years.
They’ll rely heavily on Emery’s familiarity with Barcelona to help them overcome inexperience on the football’s biggest stage, a sizeable gap in talent and the hostile road environment.
The Russian side has been sparked by the play of 22-year-old Brazilian midfielder Romulo, who’s in his first year with the club since being acquired from Vasco da Gama earlier this summer.
He’ll need help from fellow midfielder Kim Kallstrom and leading goal scorer Dmitriy Kombarov if Spartak hopes to pull off a stunning upset in group play.